City reveals details about Sulphur Dell stadium

Project would aim to minimize neighborhood impact; a happy Council member on a chair

For a project they say is in the pre-design phase, Metro officials and project architects have plenty of specific tidbits to offer about the baseball stadium proposed to be located at Sulphur Dell.

At an information session and community meeting — held Thursday afternoon at the Nashville Farmers Market — Rich Riebeling, Metro’s finance director, and Doug Sloan, the Metro Planning Department’s deputy director, were joined by architects Ron Gobbell of Gobbell Hays Partners and Bruce Miller of Populous to reveal new details about Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed new stadium for the Nashville Sounds. They outlined their vision for the stadium’s design as well as its impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

The project will require that the city acquire land from the state, a deal that is not yet finalized. But Riebeling says the administration hopes to file legislation with the Metro Council within the next few weeks that would outline the land transaction and financing for the ballpark. Initial reports about the project put the price tag at $80 million, with $40 million of that going toward the stadium.

The design work for the project will go to Gobbell Hays, locally, and national firm Populous, which has been connected to the project for some time, having conducted a study of potential stadium sites in 2011. Working in tandem, Gobbell and Miller explained the stadium that would replace the aging Greer Stadium and that they said will “knit together” the Germantown and Salemtown neighborhoods with downtown.

Envisioned between Third and Fifth avenues north, the ballpark would hold up to 10,000 people, with 8,500 of that in fixed seating and the rest in open areas like grass berms. Miller said the field is planned to be 14 feet below street level, so that fans entering the stadium will walk down into their seats, and walkers on the nearby greenway will be able to see into the park.

Prior to a question-and-answer session, Miller and Gobbell addressed some “common issues” associated with urban stadiums. They said that the latest technology in lighting is highly efficient and would allow for “very little” light to spill into the surrounding streets. As for sound concerns, they highlighted architectural approaches like massing and setbacks, as well as the recessed field, which they said would direct sound toward downtown, away from surrounding neighborhoods. They also noted that most Sounds games conclude by 10 p.m.

Regarding parking, the project would include a 1,000-car lot, and officials said fans could also make use of downtown parking and the variety of surface lots in between. In response to a question about growing pains already being felt in neighborhoods nearby, Riebeling said that if an issue were to arise with stadium-goers parking on residential streets, the city could take action to prevent it at that time.

“We want this to work for everyone,” he said, adding that he believed there would be adequate parking.

A traffic study is also being conducted to assess the future impact of the stadium.

Other questions from those in attendance addressed the potential for flooding and the size of the Sounds’ financial contribution to the project. Miller said there are a variety of ways to manage flooding, and that all the material under modern playing fields is designed for drainage. Riebeling didn’t offer any details about the Sounds' contribution, beyond reiterating the administration’s message that the Sounds would be making a “deep financial commitment” and have “skin in the game.”

No one was happier Thursday than At-Large Councilman Jerry Maynard, who at one point before the meeting began, could be seen standing on a chair proclaiming strong support for the project and directing a crowd to pick up red Friends of Sulphur Dell shirts.

"In 2008, we formed Friends of Sulphur Dell right here at Farmers Market, with Freddie [O'Connell, president of the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association, who was standing nearby] and all the neighborhood association and groups,” Maynard said, following the meeting. “And we didn't know if it was going to happen, but we fought hard for Sulphur Dell because this is the birthplace of baseball [in Nashville]. This is where it should be, the neighborhood ballpark. I'm so excited that it's going to happen. I can't tell you how excited I am. I mean, it's going to happen."

Asked about the effect on surrounding neighborhoods, he was no less enthusiastic.

"It'll be a positive,” he said. “It's nothing but positivity. Over the last 50 years, we have not had any major economic development north of Broadway. It's time to develop north of Broadway. It's time that the city make a commitment of millions of dollars in economic development, north of Broadway in North Nashville. So it's time. It's time and we're excited about it."